WHAT do you get when you cross cold water with an EastEnders actress, a rapper, a former Manchester United captain and a Strictly Pro dancer?
The answer: Freeze The Fear With Wim Hof, BBC1’s new reality show, hosted by Holly Willoughby and Lee Mack.
Big names like Patrice Evra, Tamzin Outhwaite, Professor Green and Dianne Buswell are subjected to cold water therapy with the self-proclaimed “Iceman”, Wim Hof.
The Dutchman has been a firm favorite in the celebrity set for years, with Oprah Winfrey, Orlando Bloom and Chris Hemsworth among his millions of fans.
The 62-year-old extreme athlete has a breathing technique named after him and champions the health benefits of chills.
He has set 26 world records for cold climate challenges, including climbing Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot and standing in a shipping container while covered in ice cubes for 112 minutes.
He told The Sun: “I believe in what I do. I want to change the world by bringing autonomy, love, happiness, strength and health to the world.”
All this through the power of cold.
Wim has been at it for 45 years and believes that “the cold, hard nature” saved his life.
He said: “When I was mourning the death of my wife Olaya in 1995, I really realized the benefits of the cold.
“She was depressed and plunged into darkness. I was alone with four children to care for and no money, dealing with deep emotional anguish yet having to be strong for my children.
“The kids helped me survive, but it was the cold that brought me back to life. It healed me.
“Rather than letting my broken emotions guide me, the cold water guided me to stillness and gave my broken heart a chance to rest, restore and rehabilitate.”
Science supports him. Studies show that cold can boost the immune system, reduce the risk of mental health problems, and relieve menopause symptoms.
Tom Parry, an osteopath and Wim Hof Level 2 practitioner who himself trained with the Iceman, said, “Controlled exposure to cold water is incredibly beneficial for a whole range of physical and mental health conditions.”
Ben Coomber, 35, of Woodbridge, Suffolk agrees.
He says working with Tom in learning the Wim Hof Method, which combines breathing exercises and exposure to cold, has helped him fight ‘Long Covid’.
The nutrition coach and boss of Awesome Supplements started cold water therapy in December 2020.
He said: “I was ill for six weeks by December and was unable to get any help or advice except to rest.”
He contacted Tom at the Livelong Hyntle Barn Clinic in Suffolk and was recommended breathing exercises and daily ice baths.
Ben said: “The difference was life changing. I was stuck in a rut and had a terrible feeling. I felt depressed and had brain fog all the time.
“I didn’t want to get out of bed, but within a few weeks I was making good progress. I felt better every day.
“It’s also helped my mindset and made me feel sharper and more focused.”
Ben took ice baths every day for six months, then three times a week in the summer of 2021.
When he quit last fall, his symptoms came back. He said, “I got more fatigue and brain fog, so I knew the cold water therapy and breathing exercises were having an effect.”
He returned to cold therapy and now takes cold showers for 90 seconds most days.
Ben added: “In terms of my immune system, I’m a lot stronger now. I repel bugs better and feel more resilient.
“It feels like the inflammation in my body (from long Covid) is also more under control.
“I love the feeling afterwards. But don’t get me wrong, I hate coming in.
“But that skin burn from the warm up and the mental benefits are so worth it.
‘RAISE IN ENERGY LEVELS’
“It makes me feel like I can handle anything.”
While many of us may have heard of the benefits of cold water therapy, Tom says people often don’t know why it works.
He said: “When we are exposed to cold water, it triggers a stress response in the body.
“You may think that this is bad for us, but stress is not the same as stress. Some even benefit the body.
“Cold water triggers so-called hormetic stress, which is good for us.
“The brief, sharp shock of cold water releases hormones that can increase energy levels, help the body heal, and improve mental health.
“In contrast, the chronic, long-term stress that most of us live with from busy modern lifestyles exposes our bodies to an excess of these stress hormones for an extended period of time.
“This can lead to anxiety, heart disease and digestive problems, among other things.”
Jumping into cold water and using Wim’s breathing techniques can help counteract this, as Professor Green, Patrice and the others discover on the new show.
Patrice, the former Manchester United skipper, admits he thought he would “struggle more with the cold but I just prepared my mindset as a challenge, as a warrior”.
And rapper Professor Green has continued cold therapy at home.
He said: “I take cold showers every day now. I think those little moments of discomfort do you good.”
Meanwhile, host Holly Willoughby has adopted Wim’s breathing techniques to help manage anxiety and stress.
She said, “I felt the benefit right away and couldn’t believe how powerful it was — something as simple as breathing, which you’ve been doing since the day you were born.”
- Freeze The Fear With Wim Hof airs Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC1.
HOW TO BE LIKE WIM
TOM PARRY regularly organizes Wim Hof courses (www.wimhofmethod.com/instructors/thomasparry) that sell out months in advance.
But there are elements you can try at home, and it helps to download the Wim Hof App first.
He says, “The two components are exposure to cold water and breathing, so start practicing one at a time.”
DIVE . . .
“IF you have never experienced cold water, never start in the sea, river or lake,” warns Tom.
“Take small steps. Dip one hand in cold water, then two. Gently work your way up to your wrists and elbows over a couple of days, not right away.
“Use a bucket or dishwashing bowl and start putting your feet in it too.
“Run a cold bath if you have a tub and let yourself in gently, little by little.
“If you have safe open water nearby you can try. But NEVER go in alone.
“Find a group on social media and start by spending a minute in it. Then gradually build yourself up.
“It’s important that you warm up slowly, too. A hot shower could expose you to serious problems (from frostbite to shock and rewarming collapse if your blood pressure drops) because your body warms up too quickly. Take your time.
“It should be several hours before it feels really warm again.”
. . . AND BREATH
“When it comes to breathing, lie down and close your eyes,” says Tom.
“Breathe deeply in and out 40 times and expand your abdomen before filling your lungs. Do this four times in a row.
“After each set of 40, exhale your last breath fully, then hold your breath for as long as you can. You will find that you can hold your breath longer each time.
“Do what feels comfortable.”
According to TOM, the benefits of Wim’s exposure to cold water and his breathing include:
STRENGTHENED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Czech scientists used cold water on study participants three times a week and monitored their physiology after each session.
They found an increased number of white blood cells, which indicates a strengthening of the immune system.
REDUCED MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
Exposure to cold water releases endorphins as well as the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.
Endorphins are natural pain relievers, while low levels of serotonin and dopamine have been linked to depression.
It has been found that immersion in cold water increases dopamine levels by 250 percent.
The effects of cold and heat make the heart beat faster. The cold constricts your vascular system, sending blood to your core to keep you warm.
When you warm up again and relax your blood vessels, you’ve effectively flushed your system.
IMPROVED METABOLISM AND CALORIES BURNING
When the body is exposed to cold water, it uses energy to keep warm. Cold water makes your body work twice as hard to stay warm and burns extra calories.
Repeated exposure has been found to boost metabolism, which in turn helps the body burn calories more effectively.
BRINGS YOUR LYMPH SYSTEM GOING
The lymphatic system helps the body clean itself, but unlike blood, which is pumped by the heart, it relies on muscle contractions to function.
Cold water causes lymphatic drainage, which can help prevent toxin build-up.
https://www.thesun.ie/health/8668164/freeze-the-fear-wim-hof-star/ I’m a Wim Hof teacher and here’s how immersing yourself in cold water at Freeze with Fear benefits your health